It is a paradox that as the amount of information about any subject available online has grown, so has the need for people or agencies to filter this information — to channel the flood, as it were, so as to provide a stream of knowledge that is more comprehensible to the novice.
This is certainly true of wine. Google ‘wine’ and you get 923 million results in 0.19 seconds! Right at the top of the search tables is Wikipedia, with a comprehensive 20-page piece on every aspect of the subject: etymology, history, grape varieties, classification, vintages, tasting, collecting, production, consumption, uses, religious significance, health effects — the list of topics is exhaustive, and with linkages could keep one engaged for hours (if not days).
Also on top of my search listings are two great sites for wine: Wine Spectator (the web presence of the world’s most widely-circulated wine magazine) and Wine Searcher (a very comprehensive site — almost a portal for wine). Thereafter the listings get a bit more diverse and confused (the Google algorithm will list sites according to your past search history and preferences) and one gets mostly sites exhorting you to buy this wine or that — useful information has to be ferreted out from piles of advertisements and links to producer websites.
Cutting through the clutter are a few websites I have found useful: the original Wine Doctor site (www.thewinedoctor.com) has plenty of imitators from California and Australia; Wine Anorak (www.wineanorak.com) has some useful tips, while if you Google ‘Wine Guide’ you will get some good sites that tell you all about wines from around the world.
However, when it comes to Indian wines or wines available in your neighbourhood store, the picture is very confused: there are just no sites that can help the average confused wannabe wine consumer about which wines are there, or their prices (forget any ratings or guides).
That is quite incredible, since there are at least 500 wine labels (both domestic and imported) on retail shelves in any large Indian city and I am sure that consumers would welcome any help to enable them to choose — particularly as no retailer has much knowledge or understanding about the subject and is likely to recommend wines that are ‘fast moving’ or ones where he gets good discounts.
Of course, putting up Internet-based applications costs time and money, and any developer will require a revenue model that makes commercial sense — I wonder whether vendors or producers would be willing to pay for the privilege of being listed on such a site.
Wines I’ve Been Drinking: A couple of friends and I ‘slaughtered’ a particularly fine Brunello di Montalcino recently, which made me think about the changing face of fine wines from Italy. As readers may know, Italy has two distinctive grapes: Sangiovese, grown mostly in the region of Tuscany (near Florence) which produces Chianti, Brunello/ Vino di Montepulciano and ‘Super Tuscans’; and Nebbiolo, grown in the Piedmont region around Turin, which produces Barolo (“The King of Wines, and the Wine of Kings”!).
Chianti, in particular, has come a long way: 50 years back it was a cheap, thin, red wine sold in straw-covered demi-john bottles. Today the best Chiantis compete in quality and price with the best wines from anywhere... why don’t you Google it?!
Alok Chandra is a Bangalore-based wine consultant